||It has been suggested that this article be split into articles titled Whisper (app) and WhisperText, accessible from a disambiguation page. (May 2014)|
|Initial release||March 31, 2012|
|Operating system||Apple iOS, Android|
Whisper is a free iOS and Android mobile app which allows users to send messages anonymously and receive replies. Users post messages which are displayed as text superimposed over an image, similar to greeting cards. (This app should not be confused with WhisperPush, an encrypted messaging protocol from Open WhisperSystems) The app was launched in March 2012 under the original name WhisperText by CEO Michael Heyward and Brad Brooks, who is the CEO of mobile messaging service TigerText.
Anyone can post an anonymous message to the service in the form of an image macro: text overlaid on a picture. When you open the app, you see six such images. Each one has a "secret" on it. You can respond to a message publicly or privately, choosing a public anonymous post or a private pseudonymous chat. Users don't have a public identity in the app. While they do have persistent handles, there's no way to contact them except *through* the messages they post.
Whisper has become popular on college campuses, with usership at several large universities throughout the United States, including Pennsylvania State University, Arizona State University, University of Florida, Ohio State University, and University of Texas at Austin. Stories about the app have appeared in Forbes, USA Today, The Washington Post, and Huffington Post, and Heyward was featured on Forbes' Top 30 under 30 in Technology list in January 2014. In early November 2013, Whisper was reported to have reached 2.5 billion monthly page-views and nearly 3 billion page-views in December 2013.
The app is intended to promote online anonymity. The developer claims this will prevent and combat cyberbullying. This anonymity is claimed to have fostered a support network where concern and care among users has developed: according to Mashable, "The team regularly hears from users that the network's community has helped them stop self-harming behaviors." Another premise behind the service was to counter the "best possible self" ego-driven self-aggrandizing "vanity" posting done on Facebook, and as an antidote to the phenomenon of "oversharing" and "too much information" that young users engage in online. Business Insider, Forbes, and The Daily Dot have called it "the anti-Facebook," and Forbes Tech drew a contrast in stating that, "Whisper, even more than Snapchat, is the anti-Facebook." The digital-news website SMU SMC summed up all these points together: "In addition to preventing cyber bullies, Whisper gives users the opportunity to confess to things that could potentially ruin marriages, friendships or result in loss of job, without suffering consequences. You can over share without any repercussions."
Whisper has also been used as a platform for citizen journalism. In June 2014, amid widespread violence and unrest in Iraq and the Iraqi government's blocking of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, many Iraqis downloaded and used Whisper as a means of acting as real-time reporters, posting news and updates hours before the mainstream media, as well as sharing political views and personal thoughts and feelings.
Development of the system was outsourced to Inaka, a web and mobile app development consultancy based in Seattle, Washington and Buenos Aires, Argentina. The original system back end used the Riak NoSQL database, but after major performance and scaling problems the system was converted to use MySQL.
WhisperText LLC received its first round of venture-capital funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners for $3 million in April 2013, and then a second round of funding from Sequoia Capital, Trinity Capital, and Lightspeed for $21 million in September 2013. PitchBook, an independent private equity and venture capital research firm, forecasted in November 2013 that Whisper is one of the likeliest social platform IPOs, with a pre-money valuation of $85 million. According to Om Malik, Founder and Senior Writer of GigaOM, Whisper was already, as of July 2013, valued at $100 million.
WhisperText's revenue comes only from its service charges; as of 2013 there is no advertising. According to Whisper's CEO, this revenue is covering a “decent amount” of the company’s costs. Ads are being considered, but may damage the expectation of privacy Whisper's users expect. Tim Dotan of the Los Angeles Business Journal asks "Would it be a violation if, say, a person who anonymously comes out on Whisper starts getting ads targeted at a gay audience?"
Whisper Text LLC claims to have set up a companion nonprofit for its users called Your Voice, which, according to its web site, is "dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues on college campuses". The site claims to provide resources and support for college students dealing with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, sexuality and LGBTQ issues, bullying, suicide prevention, and stress management. The web site provides links to various services run by other organizations, but offers no services of its own. The contact telephone number on the web site to call for help (1-800-273-TALK) is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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- Gannes, Liz (September 5, 2013). "Why Should You Care About Whisper, the Secret-Sharing App That VCs Are Pouring Money Into?". All Things D (San Francisco, California). Retrieved December 28, 2013.
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- "Secret Lives Of College Students: Anonymous Posts Shared By Whisper Users". Huffington Post (New York, New York). August 23, 2012. Retrieved December 17, 2013.
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- "Frightened Iraqis take to anonymous app". CNN (Washington D.C.). June 16, 2014. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
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- Brooks, Clark. "Whisper: Are You Really Anonymous?". Illinois: Photo News.
- "Inaka - What We do: Whisper". Inaka. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
- "Inaka Founder Talks Argentina, Agile and Lean". Boundary. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
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- Malik, Om (July 31, 2013). "Rumor Says: Whisper, the anonymity mobile service raising big money, valued at $100M". GigaOM (San Francisco, California). Retrieved December 17, 2013.
- Dotan, Tom (April 22, 2013). "Privacy Apps' Popularity Spreads". Los Angeles Business Journal (Los Angeles, California). Retrieved December 17, 2013.
- Griffith, Erin (April 4, 2013). "Lightspeed invests $3 million in Whisper, the "secrets" app with Snapchat-like adoption". PandoDaily (San Francisco). Retrieved December 17, 2013.
- Lawler, Ryan (September 4, 2013). "Secret-Sharing App Whisper Snags $21 Million From Sequoia, Adds Roelof Botha To Its Board". TechCrunch (San Francisco, CA). Retrieved December 17, 2013.
- Dotan, Tim (April 22, 2013). "Privacy Apps' Popularity Spreads". Los Angeles Business Journal.
- "About Us". Your Voice (Los Angeles, CA). Retrieved December 29, 2013.
- "Your Voice". Whisper Text LLC. Retrieved 16 January 2014.